California wildfires set new record with more than 1.6 million hectares of land burned

In a year that has already brought apocalyptic skies and smothering smoke to the U.S. West Coast, California set a grim new record Sunday when officials announced that the wildfires of 2020 have now scorched a record 1.6 million hectares in a fire season that is far from over.

The unprecedented figure — an area larger than the state of Connecticut — is more than double the previous record for the most land burned in a single year in California.

“The four million [acre] mark is unfathomable. It boggles the mind, and it takes your breath away,” said Scott McLean, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire. “And that number will grow.”

So far, in this year’s historic fire season, more than 8,200 California wildfires have killed 31 people, Cal Fire said Sunday in a statement. The blazes have destroyed more than 8,400 buildings.

The figure announced Sunday is more than double the 2018 record of 675,000 hectares in California. All large fire years since Cal Fire started recording figures in 1933 have remained well below the four million mark — “until now,” the agency said Sunday in a Tweet.

“This year is far from over and fire potential remains high. Please be cautious outdoors.”

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